Under the Magnifying Glass


eileen_icon.gif magnes_icon.gif

Scene Title Under the Magnifying Glass
Synopsis Magnes comes to Eileen with what's been weighing on him lately.
Date February 5, 2010

Central Park

It's later in the afternoon when Magnes swoops down inbetween some trees in Central Park. His black denim jacket is buttoned up, his blue jeans look particularly ragged and dirty today, and his black sneakers are pretty damned beat up. When he arrives at the bench he's supposed to meet Eileen, the few differences from the last time they met would be the fact that he has no eyepatch on, instead showing his pale blind left eye, and he seems to have a bruise on his right cheek. "Eileen." he says in a low tone, eyes dark and seemingly exhausted.

When you carry a pocket watch in your coat, you have very few excuses for not being punctual; Eileen tries very hard to be on time, especially when it comes to semi-clandestine meetings with old allies who the government would probably prefer she cut ties with. There's no clause in her contract, however, that forbids her from being in contact with Magnes Varlane — the worst that will happen is she draws attention to herself and her activities, and while this could quickly prove fatal if she decides that it's time to move on Danko, it's also a risk she's willing to take for someone she considers less than a friend but something more than a casual acquaintance.

She's dressed plainly in clothes that are so common it would be difficult to pick her out of a crowd: dark pea coat, lighter sweater and a pair of tight denim jeans tucked into leather boots that lace up the front and are trimmed with faux fur as an extra precaution against the cold. Pale eyes survey the damage inflicted to his face, but when her lips move it's not to comment on it. "You wanted to talk?"

"You're still like some sort of painting." Magnes says before taking a seat on the bench, hunching over slightly. "Eileen, I need to know something." He looks over at her, in a tone more serious than normal, even when they were in Antarctica. "What were you doing, before Midtown blew up? Do you miss it, your old life?"

Eileen joins Magnes on the bench — it's less conspicuous than standing around under a lamppost with her hands in her pockets — and crosses her legs at the knee, back straight and shoulders locked into a rigid position. A red-tailed hawk perched in the gnarled branches of a naked elm stripped bare by winter's onset keeps watch for the telltale glint of sunlight reflecting off a pair of polarized aviator sunglasses.

"Sometimes," she allows, and at first does not seem as though she's going to elaborate. Then, perhaps for lack of anything else to say; "I miss resting my head on Ethan's lap on the train. Cubilete with Rico. Kazimir used to touch my hair when he thought I was asleep. Why?"

"I can never say I miss Kazimir, no one seems to understand. I know he's done a lot of bad, but…" Magnes closes his eyes for a moment, then opens them when he seems composed once more. "We can change it, all of this. Abby can be back in, well, where ever she lived in the South, healing people. You could be with Kazimir and Ethan, everyone you cared about. I might not be that happy in college, doing what my parents wanted me to do, but it'd be better than what we're doing right now. We could change it all, the entire world, it doesn't have to be this way." He doesn't sound like he's simply giving a motivational speech, he sounds dead serious, and points toward Midtown. "If we stop that from happening, we'll be happy again."

It takes Eileen a few long moments of uncomfortable silence to parse what Magnes is saying, and when she does she veers a sharp look in Midtown's direction before making an abrupt shift back to his face. "You don't know that." Her voice has taken on a harder quality that suppresses emotion, making it difficult for the young man to interpret its cutting tone. "If what happened here in New York City hadn't, do you think the government would have been able to launch Apollo and stop Kazimir's final solution from taking place?"

"And what now? Kazimir's gone, Claire's lost her memories, Gabriel's gone, Cardinal's gone, god knows what the government's doing with Hector. I predicted the sentinel robots coming out when we were in Argentina. So now I'm making another prediction; sentinel robots in New York, if Hector didn't die somehow. People are dying, there's less and less to protect, this whole fight is becoming a test in severe altruism." Magnes turns to her, lowering his hand to look into her eyes. "I have this sick feeling in my stomach all the time, Claire looks at me the way everyone else does; like I'm some sort of burden, and it hurts. I don't have Kazimir to tell me what to do, I'm angry, I need to just hit something at night. As soon as I came back, I felt so bad I just… went and had sex, and it helped for a while, but now I'm miserable again."

He looks back to Midtown briefly, and back to her. "I'm gonna change it all, somehow. I already know about the final solution, I can still do something about it. But I am gonna change it, everything, I know we'll be happy if I do, I can't keep living life like this…"

"You can, and you will." Eileen does not leave much room for debate; her skin is marble-pallid and her eyes cold. While she can sympathize with Magnes, she has very different methods of coping with her feelings — seeing his so prominently on display rekindles memories of what happened in Peter's apartment and the words with which she attacked Aviators in her own. "You don't like the world we're living in? Do something about it, but don't you dare try to wipe clean the sacrifices other people have made just to ensure it keeps existing. If you have any respect for Kazimir and Gabriel at all, then let their deaths mean something."

She slips a hand into the interior of her coat and closes fingers around the battered package of cigarettes she keeps there. Selecting a single stick from behind the gold foil lip, she slides it out, positions it between pursed lips and murmurs around the filter while fishing for her matchbook. "You don't need someone to provide you with direction," she says, "least of all a dead man, and he was gone even before you knew him."

"What am I supposed to do? I'm not some misguided delusional hero. I grew out of that, I know there's nothing I can do! And what will their deaths mean when another Midtown happens? What are they gonna mean when someone like Gillian loses control next to someone like White? I hate to say it, I honestly do, but this whole thing was all for nothing." Magnes hunches again, his disillusionment seeming to grow by the minute. "Don't you get it, Eileen? As long as Evolved exist, as long as there are people like us, the world could end at any moment. Either one of us or someone who wants to kill us are gonna end it, and all we're doing is picking up the pieces until the inevitable happens. We're nothing but ants with the delusion that we can somehow stop the magnifying glass from frying us.

Eileen strikes a match against the strip on the back of the book, the lines of her face illuminated by the spark and crackle of gold flame produced by its phosphorus head. She cups one gloved hand around it and bows her head, using the protective shield formed by her fingers to prevent the wind from snuffing out the light before she can touch it to the tip of her cigarette. Soon, there's viscous white smoke accompanying a soft glow that bleeds out from behind her glove and further distorts the Briton's features.

"In nineteen-ninety-four," she says, "more than twenty percent of Rwanda's population was massacred over a period of one hundred days, Six million European Jews were killed in Holocaust. Three million people will die this year alone from AIDS. You think that suffering starts and ends here with Midtown? With the Evolved?

"You're wrong." She pauses to take a drag from her cigarette, however brief, and then lets out her breath through his nostrils, forming twin streams of smoke. "Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Darfur. Forced abortions. Child prostitution. Sex trafficking. Human nature has an ugly side, lovely, and it has nothing to do with the Suresh Linkage Complex."

"So what you're saying is, the entire world sucks, and will always suck…" Magnes sits up and hangs his head back, staring up at the darkening sky as his look of disillusionment gradually starts to become one of defeat. "It sounds like the whole world just needs to be put out of its misery, doesn't it? Why do you go on? What drives you? I'm running on empty, and my altruism is all worn out. Nothing gets better, no matter what we do."

"I'm saying that changing what happened in November of two-thousand-and-six won't fix what you perceive is wrong with the world. The things that are wearing on you now are what wore on Kazimir for over a century, and we both saw what it did to him. Going back and stopping Peter isn't the answer. Neither is setting off another bomb or turning loose a plague." Eileen reaches up to rub the side of her hand along her jaw, trailing ash from the cigarette positioned between her gloved fingers. "There's beauty in it, too. Human kindness, compassion. We all have that great capacity for both good and evil, however you want to define those terms — it's probably better for everyone if you don't."

Magnes sighs, turning to face her with his head raising from over the bench. "Alright, Eileen." He doesn't sound any better, still rather defeated, but at least there's a hint that he's given up on his plan. "You really are a good friend, you know. You're the only person, other than Claire before she lost her memories, that I trust to tell me the truth. I'm sleeping with Delilah and I still expect her to lie to me sometimes, but you're different, that's why I called you."

Eileen doesn't tell Magnes that the truth is just as subjective as the vernacular she's warning him away from. Instead, she rises from the bench, directs a look down the path that winds around the elms and the looming shape of Belvedere Castle visible through the skinny gaps between their branches. "We're going to take a walk," she says, "to see the swans at Turtle Pond. There's a stand that sells stale bread to throw to the ducks so people can watch their children squeal at the carp fighting the birds for it. I'll buy us a bag with my pocket money and we won't talk about this anymore."

"Alright, Eileen." Magnes stands and heads over to her, reaching down to take her hand, then just starts following. "I'm gonna see my parents tomorrow, to see what this whole abandonment thing is about. And, you know, I'm starting a band with my friend Sable…" He intends to listen to her command, telling her about his life instead of dwelling on the bad in the world.

Eileen's hand moves away from Magnes', avoiding its clasp, and comes to settle at his elbow closest to her as she falls into step beside him. On the subjects of his parents, Sable and the band, she has very little to offer apart from the occasional sound of affirmation spaced out between drags from her smoldering cigarette, but her relative silence is not indicative of disinterest.

If it was, her focus would be elsewhere and she wouldn't be relying on the hawk that now soars high above their heads to act as an extra set of eyes on the ground.

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